Monday, 30 April 2012

Finishing Work + Video

This rain has given me 3 solid days working on the bow. Yesterday I got the horn nocks on and semi finished. I also did some general finishing work.
Today I've finished the nocks and continued the painstaking finishing work going over the bow with various grades of sandpaper often in diabolo fashion* working down to 400grade wet & dry paper. It's had a wipe of Danish oil and I've taken pics of some of the nice features.
The top left pic shows the lower limb with it's blush of pinkish purpley colour. The top right pic shows the hint of reflex on the tip and the heart sap boundary. Last pic shows the area of the grip with some real character, a blush and wriggle of grain and the only knot I filled just grazing the belly, to the right there is the slight depression in the side where there is a wiggle in the grain which follows where it was originally split from the log. It might be a shame to put a leather grip on it and cover the character, I shall see how it shoots. Being 60# the grip is fairly big and solid, I deliberately left a little extra sapwood on the back there too, so it feels good and doesn't have the sharp corners you often get between back and sides.
Here's a video of it being draw back to 28" and then briefly 29"

*Diabolo sanding/polishing is when you have a longish strip of sand paper, hold one end in each hand and work it back and forth. E.G with the bow horizontal, I have the paper draped over the bow and pull down on each side in turn, this is great for the round belly of a longbow and it also gives a bit of a radius to the edge where the back meets the sides.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Full Draw & Test Shots

I'm certainly glad I didn't rush at it yesterday. I reviewed the video I'd taken and could see the outer limbs weren't bending much, I got the right limb moving more and then worked on the left, it was still a bit strong on the left limb, and all this was at a low brace height.
I took some time taking out all the rasp marks with a scraper as it was beginning to get close to final draw length and weight. There were a couple of tiny pinch marks by the Devil's thumb print so I put some low viscosity superglue on it. I figured the area had withstood 60# draw weight and as the other limb was going to get eased off it would be ok. I went over the whole bow cleaning up the back and sliding my verniers over any suspect areas to check the taper was even and the bow was always slimmer towards the tip.

I also checked the string alignment by hanging it from the sting and looking along it, there was a hint of 'S' shape so I stuck some wedges of scrap Yew to the back at the nocks to allow filing of temporary nocks on the back which allowed me to narrow the tips from one side or the other to adjust the string line.
This has been an ongoing process through the whole business and is why I leave the tips about 20mm wide to start with. The string line shifts a bit as the bow begins to flex and finds it's curve.
Finally I shortened the string and got it to proper brace height, pulled it back to 60# and whew, it was 28" !
There was pretty much a days work getting this far, despite the temptation to rush to do it yesterday.
The 2 pictures are the taken from video of it being dynamically flexed, first at low brace height yesterday and the other is how it looks now.
I will doubtless have some fine tweaking to do, but I shouldn't loose draw weight as I can bring eack nock in by 1/4 of an inch to allow for any loss of weight. It is good to see the reflex still visible at full draw. There is a bit of an optical illusion as it looks to have increased from the left picture, that's just due to the sliver of sapwood glued to the back.
It still looks a bit uneven as the natural wiggles in the satve show up, that is one of the difficulties of tillering self bows
I borrowed the string from one of my other bows and tried a couple of test shots, it felt good.
No sign of problems around the thumb print. There is another area, a small natural depression where the grain dips just above the arrow pass which looks fine too. I'd been a bit worried early on as it might have been a weak point, but as the limbs were reduced it was apparent that there was probably plenty of wood there.
The finishing will be fun as some of these features will start to show up, there are a couple of nice streaks of purpleish red too.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Devil's Thumb Print

Ok, it's a fanciful title.
The stave I've just started on was cut close to a knot, and it turned out to be more extensive than I'd hoped, there are also some streaks of dark discolouration emanating from it which are of some concern.
Most of it has slowly disappeared, but it took several iterations of tweaking the centreline to minimise it. The pictures on the left show it when first roughed out, the pic on the right shows what's left of the 'thumb print' now, which is pretty much how it will remain.
Elsewhere on the stave there is some of the nice reddish purple colour which seemed sound enough on the 90# bow I built in January. I've made really rapid progress on the bow and it's currently to a low brace height and pulling back to 55# at about 20" (target is 60# at 28") .
There is still a long way to go as I need to carefully work over the back and I may reduce the length by and inch as it's for a guy who is 5'9" so I think 70 - 71" should look about right.
It's easier to make a longer bow as it's lower stressed, but I want it to look right, he wants it to shoot 180yards, which should be fine, but a shorter punchy bow with less inertia in the limbs may be faster.
The stave has a lovely hint of natural reflex at one end (that will be the top limb) and a hint of deflex on the other. Lopping off an extra inch will take out some of that deflex.
We are back to that thorny old question of the lower limb being tillered stiffer than the upper. Robert Hardy once told me one of my bows was upside down because the lower limb looked weak! I didn't actually argue but I showed him the natural deflex in the lower limb. If one is reflexed and one slightly deflexed which way up would you make it and why? Personally I'll stick to putting any deflex at the bottom, I've toyed with different ways of doing it and ended up thinking the tiller didn't look quite right at full draw.
Each to his own and if it ain't bust, don't fix it.
People often ask how long it takes to make a bow. I've put in two good days on this one and could probably have it shooting by tonight, but I won't do that as I'd be rushing and increasing the chances of it breaking. It would still need  the horn nocks, arrow plate and grip fitting and the careful finishing. The shooting in and final tweaking takes time too.
So it's one of those questions I try to avoid, but when pressed I generally reckon about 50 hours as I'm trying to get the best of the stave rather than just making a working bow as fast as possible. What is easy to forget is the time obtaining and splitting the wood out of the log and all the time I've spent musing over where to get the bow out of the stave.
There was a questionaire on a website that someone was doing as a school project, they asked:- How long does it take to mark out a bow? Well to mark out where you will saw a bow from a stave takes about 5 minutes, but the thinking can take a few months of consideration!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Busy Busy Bowyer

I got a couple of E-mails which sorted out my confusion, I think the previous post and a nudge from one of their club mates got the communication restored.
So I've started another bow, this will mean that the club in question will have four members shooting my bows by the time it's finished (fingers crossed).
I had one last big stave, it's quarter of a log with a couple of knots in the middle. I'd been looking at it off and on for a while thinking it might suit a very big warbow or maybe cut down the middle and make two bows, (you can see a pic of it in the post of Friday 23rd March, it's the large stave in the middle).
I decided to try and avoid the knots but to play safe and just lay out the best bow I could rather than being greedy and trying to get two. I've ended up with one handsome stave and another bit which may make a bow, but will certainly be good for a crossbow prod or some such.
The sap wood is pretty thick so I carefully ran it through the bandsaw to take off a continuous strip which may come in handy for backing a bow. The Oregon Yew I got has some bug holes in the sapwood so I may be able to use the sapwood strip to back that.
It's a bit nervy running it through the bandsaw as you can't afford a mistake which would cut right through the sapwood.
A bit of work with the drawknife has cleaned it up to a nice even layer and I can get on roughing it out further.
All this means I have two on the go at once which is unusual for me but I'm enjoying it, especially as these two staves are pretty knot free for a change!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Weird Heart/Sap Boundary (& Emails)

I've been reducing the sapwood to pretty much follow a growth ring, but came to a point where I'd pencilled 'LEAVE' on the sapwood.
There was a faint dark strip showing along the length of the back as if the heartwood was peeking through.
Weird, as there is plenty of sapwood when viewed from the sides (see pics).
Hmmm, You can only work with what you can see so I sawed it in half! (No! just kidding!).
I thought there is no point just thinking there is heartwood there, I need to know (on the 'better the devil you know principal).
I continued working down to the sapwood ring I was chasing, but allowed the back to crown up a tad towards the dark streak which slowly became exposed. The sketch show what I think is going on inside the wood, the heart sap boundary doesn't always follow round a growth ring as you might expect (and as you will see in many illustrations).
Yes it looks like heartwood, but as it's running along the length of the bow it shouldn't be a problem. It will be become a 'feature' and maybe the bow will aquire a name from it like Ridgeback or some such. Let's just hope it's not 'heartbreak ridge'.
I've been at it all morning now and the back is looking clean, the sapwood is pretty thin in places along one edge and rather thick in places along the other edge, but overall it's looking like a decent bow and will soon be ready for flexing with a long string on the tiller, once I've been along it getting the thickness to a fairly even taper.
It will doubtless be way over weight but it will be good to see how it bends. Don't expect I'll get that far today. Slow and steady wins the day (other platitudes are also available).
Update:- The taper wasn't far off so it didn't take long to get it done and pop it up un the tiller on a string just long enough to slip onto the bow. I winched it back to 50# and tips just came back about 4". It looks quite pretty with a hint of reflex to the stave, which will doubtless pull out during tillering. There's plenty of wood to take off belly and sides* now, but at least it's roughed out to a decent starting point. That's my lot for today, I accomplished more than I expected and hopefully I've overcome the tricky sapwood issues.
Leaving it a bit wide at the tips will allow me to adjust for any twist induced by the uneven sap/heart wood.

I'm one of those Email addicts who checks every 10 minutes, but I've recently been trying to contact a couple of guys with no luck. (I've finished a bow for one of 'em).
If someone doesn't want a bow or has some more urgent business, that's fine. You don't get to 60years old without realising that there are more important things than bows and E-mails.
It's not a problem for me as I'm happy to hang onto a bow for myself, or if it's still unclaimed in 6 months I will have no trouble finding it a home.
The real point is I don't want anyone stressing out, least of all myself! I won't start a bow until I make contact. But if someone no longer wants a bow, just let me know... not a prob' at all.
I just make 'em for fun.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A Visitor bearing Yew

My visitor Martin turned up with his Yew. I was a bit worried at first as there wasn't much heartwood, but it was deceptive, there was a fair bit when viewed from one edge. A bit of careful laying out of the bow with a taut string tying to minimise the wiggle in the grain whilst maximising the heartwood eventually allowed me mark out where to saw. (30mm wide at the grip and 20mm at the tips )
Once run through the bandsaw there was a good amount of heartwood to play with. The back was nice and clear of knots. The perfect stave?... Ah, well, real wood isn't quite that well behaved, there is a lot more sapwood visible on one side than the other and the situation reverses to some extent at the other end.
I've taken off a lot of the excess sapwood with the draw knife and it's begining to be clearer how to get the bow out of the wood.
We spent some time shooting too, having tired of hacking off sapwood.
I put up a scrap of paper 2x3" on my target foam at about 10 yards. Martin tried most of my bows hitting the scrap of paper a few times especially with the two flat section primitives (Ash and Hazel) which is a testament to both bow and archer. We shot a few different arrows from  the bows so he could feel how a better matched arrow felt. The Chinese Repeater and primitive crossbow had an outing too... blimey he even hit the scrap of paper with 3 out of his 5 bolts from the repeater!
It was great to meet someone interested in everything from the tree to the actual shooting and having started on the bow I may have trouble putting it down.
The Yew is fairly typical, coarse grained in part, yet fine grained in others, the colour is quite nice and it felt good under the draw knife. Hopefully I can produce a fine bow. I might just test the off cut from the end with my moisture meter just to see what it's like.
There is plenty of wood to play with, as we cut it to about 76"

Friday, 20 April 2012

Backstop Net

I hung the backstop net which I'd bought, but it was a daft size, 2m x 3m with the long side vertical. This didn't cover enough of my garage door so I bought some eyelets, fitted them along the long edge and hung it the other way.
For stowage the net can be drawn across to the right and put on a shelf and the wire then unclipped.
The second pic shows the view from outside the garage when I'm shooting.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow as a guy is visiting with a couple of Yew staves which he cut over a year ago and he wants me to make him a bow. Should be able to get it roughed out so he can get an idea of it.

Monday, 16 April 2012

55 Pounder Finished and some Yew spotting

I've finally completed the 55 pounder, it's had a fair amount of shooting and now has arrow plate, leather grip and it's own string.

We went down South at the weekend, did some hunting for Yew. We stayed with my parents and I also met up with my brother who gave me a couple of archery books from a friend of his, one of which was signed by the author Glenn St.Charles, excellent!

I popped into DG Quicks to stock up on bowstring material and some arrow stop netting which is damn expensive, but will prevent more holes in my garage door!

We'd driven down on Friday the 13th which was a mistake as it ended up costing me a new battery and tyre for the car (the battery was on it's way out anyway, but the tyre was relatively new)

I'm trying to contact the Head Forester to see if they will allow me to cut the Yew. I expect you can pick out the limb I'm after in the pics, it's sticking up almost vertical and the top has been lopped off at some point in it's past. I'm hoping this will have slowed it's growth giving nice tight dark heartwood. I had a limb like this a few years ago which produced 3 excellent bows, two longbows and 'twister' which is my regular field shooting bow.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Drawknife Wallet

A dull damp Easter bank Holiday, well to be fair, the Good Friday was lovely and we got some work done on the garden.
On the Saturday I went up to the club to help out with the have a go archery, but there weren't many visitors. I'd taken along a stave and my drawknife to work away at and give a bit of a demo if needed.
On the walk up to the camp I'd stuck the drawknife into my crossbow bolt quiver where it contrived to snag my hand.
You can see where this is going now, and I set to, making a wallet to protect me from further incident.
I've previously made a cover for my axe head, but the blade tended to cut the stitching and I had to put in a copper rivet to protect it. My brother told me how to avoid this by stitching in a thin strip of leather between the front and back, this provides a buffer for the sharp edge of the blade and protects the stitching.
The end result does look a little twee, but I expect it will have a nice worn appearance in 25 years or so! (I shall kick it around the garage floor to hasten the ageing process).
The primitive crossbow which I took with me drew a fair bit of interest so I've added a picture of it to my website on the 'Other Stuff' page with a link to the Bowyers Diary entry where I start building it.
I'll be up at the camp when they run their Belatane Festival (May 7th) setting up my shave horse and tillering rig and I'll be working away all day doing demos, tillering a bow and chatting away. If you are in the area (Herts/Essex border) and want to entertain the kids for a day it's worth a visit (the archery club is separate from the camp, but we all muck in and help with the have a go archery and stuff on the big event days). The Owl display is great and Barney the Barn owl is a fave'.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Yew ELB Composite Picture

I've had a play cutting and pasting pictures into MS 'Paint'. (Double click it to see it big at decent resolution)
The latest bow is virtually finished and nicely shot in, it just needs the grip and arrowplate, it's taken a little more set than I'd have liked, but it started with some slight deflex, and I'd rather have some set than a smashed bow. It seems to have a good cast and nearly made 180 yards up hill into a head wind at the club today, to put that into perspective it was further and any of the other archers there today shot (about 6 of us, one with a horsebow). It compared favourably against the 65 pounder I finished last month.
The pics show some of the features of the bow, I particularly like the concave dip in the sapwood central upper pic near the lower left corner.
The two central pics show the tip with the patch, it looks pretty good when you look back and see how it started out.
I'm rather pleased with the bow, although there is a slight imperfection where the Yew shows as a blush through the horn nock, (bottom right), however it's above the string nock and isn't a problem and just goes to show how deep the wood penetrates into the horn nock.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A Mistake and a Steel Crossbow Prod

I walked up to the town through the woods, the sloe bushes in the hedegrow were in full bloom and in the woodland the bluebells were coming out.
I got home to discover I'd stuck the horn nocks on the wrong ends of the longbow! Fortunately I hadn't completely finished shaping them and there was enough bulk to file to the desired shape with the top nock fancier and more elegant and the lower nock more stumpy and rounded.
One of the guys I regularly E-mail was asking about pictures of steel crossbow prods, I recomended the Ralph Payne Gallwey book and then remembred I'd had a go at forging one about 30 years ago. A friend and I had bought an ex MOD portable farriers forge from Exchange and Mart, presumably left over from WWI when they had loads of horses still. The forge wasn't really big enough for the job, and I didn't have a proper anvil. Anyhow I had a go and worked out how to fold the nocks like a real medieval prod (see pics).
The problem with modern ones is they are too skinny and don't look right for a reproduction medieval bow. They use modern steels and are lower draw weights. To forge one you need something aproximating to medieval steel (I used EN8, which prbably has a different classification by now) and then you need to harden and temper it afterwards, which needs a big oven. So you see it's not easy which is why most people buy one or make one from an old car leaf spring. The one on my website is made from a car leaf spring with collars brazed on at nocks to try to make it look right.